This is a very entertaining and disturbing treatment of the Mexican drug wars, from an expat Scottish journalist who has spent years in Mexico. It isThis is a very entertaining and disturbing treatment of the Mexican drug wars, from an expat Scottish journalist who has spent years in Mexico. It is highly critical of US policy and ends up coming down as basically pro-legalization, while strongly acknowledging that legalization, especially of marijuana alone, won't solve the problem. Many questions, few answers....more
I gave this four stars, but with reservations. In my opinion, Connelly always writes 90% of a magnificent police procedural and then pulls random "CLEI gave this four stars, but with reservations. In my opinion, Connelly always writes 90% of a magnificent police procedural and then pulls random "CLEVER!" endings out of his ass. Their excessive cleverness completely wrecks my reading experience. Seriously, I can't even begin to express how fantastically stupid the twists at the end of most of his books are. But I keep on reading them, because most of every book is great. I just have to learn that I'm always going to hit a ludicrous twist near the end.
In "Trunk Music," it's less stupid than some, stupider than others, and generally more or less on track for a standard-issue Bosch experience. Well done!...more
I very much enjoyed the Netflix series, so I figured I'd read the book. It was reasonably interesting. Having read hundreds of books by and about hardI very much enjoyed the Netflix series, so I figured I'd read the book. It was reasonably interesting. Having read hundreds of books by and about hardened criminals, though, I found this memoir pretty self-indulgent. Kerman spends an awful lot of time bellyaching about her oh-so-wonderful fiancee and their oh-so-great relationship, and how much she loves and misses her family, sob sob sob sob sob, which I found self-indulgent after the first repetition, tedious after the second repetition, and infuriating after the hundredth.
Mind you, I just finished reading a book featuring many first-person accounts of people in Soviet and Nazi internment camps during World War II, so while I most certainly sympathize with Kerman's feelings of isolation from her family, it doesn't bear up under such lingering treatment, especially not when she schoolgirls over her future hubby.
As a reader, I found it like being beaten to death with a love letter. Hearing about how great someone else's relationship is, to me, frankly, never interesting, but that's just me. In this case, though, it just comes across as a plea for us to feel sorry for Kerman because her super-sweet hot, built, kinda sensitive future husband isn't there to hold her hand. It fails to further the memoir's progression and hugely undermines the significance of the book.
Had she shorthanded some of her I-miss-Larry stuff, there would have been more time to place her narrative in a broader context, which would have made it a far more important book. She does a little of that, but not nearly enough. To my way of reading it, she squandered a great opportunity to educate people on how the prison system really works, and not just how dysfunctional it is, but WHO BENEFITS from its dysfunction.
Still, Orange is the New Black is worth a read if you have any interest in the penal system or just want to read about Kerman's experiences. But what makes this an important book -- the only reason it gets four stars -- is its observations on the ridiculousness and arbitrary nature of the penal system and the drug war in particular. It would have been a far MORE important book if Kerman had bothered to intersperse her somewhat self-indulgent narrative with more real research, facts and figures about the economic realities of the prison industry and the drug war.
I know Kerman as a writer has that capability; since her release, she has been an activist against mandatory minimums. I just wish some more of that activism had been included to break up this hugely repetitive memoir. I would say that I hope the Netflix series helps further the dialog about mandatory minimums, class, race, sentencing, economics and the prison industry -- but I doubt that it will.
Nonetheless, as one of the few available memoirs about women in prison, I reluctantly have to call this a historically important book, which is why it gets four stars instead of the three I would give it based strictly on reading interest.
For what it's worth, what happened to Kerman was awful. Yes, she is quick to take sole responsibility in this memoir, but the fact that she went to prison at all is kind of a joke. What's so tragic is that so many women and men in far less privileged social positions are in the same boat. The system tries hard to ruin them for any attempt at a meaningful life later, while claiming it doesn't. I wish Kerman's relatively mild experience of the penal system could serve as a starting point for how broken our penal system really is....more
Wow. A lot of people seem to have hated this book. I found the mildly pretentious style to be a bit annoying at first, but I ended up getting used toWow. A lot of people seem to have hated this book. I found the mildly pretentious style to be a bit annoying at first, but I ended up getting used to it quickly. I really, really enjoyed the book overall. I'm surprised it rubbed so many people the wrong way. Whatever....more
I really wasn't that crazy about this book on a number of different levels, but the author's voice is just so engaging and enjoyable that I couldn't hI really wasn't that crazy about this book on a number of different levels, but the author's voice is just so engaging and enjoyable that I couldn't help but like it anyway. My main problem with it was the jumping around in time and space. This was mostly intentional, telling a sort of "weave" story of Codella's hardboiled upbringing in Canarsie in a neighborhood of wiseguys and cops, crossed with the edgy world of Alphabet City in the '80s. However, at times it lapsed into that thing that cop-memoirs do. It would lay down undocumented and at times mildly ludicrous vignettes intended to drive home to us how awful and outrageous life on the streets was. It's not that I don't think that stuff happened, but cop memoirs often relate stories that are provided without reference to actual names or cases...which make them seem like hearsay garbage that cops sling around in the locker room.
On the other hand, the author's freshness in admitting the many times he crossed the line and violated procedure (and probably civil rights) in the interest of getting a conviction is really illuminating. I'm thoroughly sympathetic to the fact that a cop on the street trying to shut down the drug trade is basically crippled by the bureaucratic procedure and the courts. But I can't get behind the flippant disregard shown for the rights of the accused in cases of suspected drug dealing after the Reagan-era "asset confiscation" laws were passed. The author portrays these laws as only being used when the accused was obviously a drug dealer..."everyone knew it." That's fine for the author's conscience, but the next time one of my conservative friends lectures me about Obamacare and the constitution, maybe I'll ask them to defend the extrajudicial confiscation of individual property as championed by that conservative god of "individual rights," Ronald McReagan. It's not that I think these guys weren't scumbags...but how exactly does extrajudicial asset confiscation add up to due process under the Constitution? Or...I'm sorry, is it possible that this was a way to confiscate underprivileged douchebags' assets so that the confiscating authorities could use that money to buy new toys, and figure that they were too screwed up on drugs to get a lawyer and try to get their money/Mercedes/bling back? That's screwed up. Clear violation of due process, and fairly offensive how it's presented here given that the author admirably stays away from racism and anti-poor prejudice otherwise. That's remarkably true even though he does take a lot of liberty with the rights of the accused. But that's a whole 'nother argument, one in which I come down more on the side of Codella than on the extrajudicial asset confiscation.
That little nitpick aside, Codella did kick lots of ass, and these were not nice guys he was smacking upside the head. The millieu of the heroin epidemic of the 1980s was intoxicating. I love that Codella was on the street enough to see what was really happening, which just about completely eluded the media of the time and since. In the middle of crack hysteria, crack was largely irrelevant in the long-term disintegration of American cities -- heroin was the drug doing far more damage. Codella's views on the two are absolutely invaluable....more